Ben Frost works with Steve Albini to capture an event.Mute, 2017
7.8 / 10
Aside from The Haxan Cloak and Pharmakon, Ben Frost makes the most uncomfortable electronic music. It captures a mood, usually one that’s grave and never lets up. Don’t expect any club bangers or chances to dance. It’s just unsettling. If it was the score to a film, it’d likely be a thriller or some sci-fi epic. This remains true for Frost’s latest album, The Centre Cannot Hold. Frost recorded the album over ten days with Steve Albini in Chicago. Supposedly Frost worked by himself in a room, performing the album live as Albini handled the recording. Frost describes the album as an event rather than an album, and that feels true.
Listeners looking for deeper, political meaning behind the music will likely find some. After all, this is a wordless release other than the song’s titles which include: “A Single Hellfire Missle Costs $100,000”, “Healthcare”, and “All That You Love Will Be Eviscerated”. But Frost says The Centre Cannot Hold is not a literal description of the current political climate. It just happens to be born during a time of upheaval; another way of explaining the album’s intensity. However, Ben Frost never makes music without tension. Even last year’s soundtrack The Wasp Factory was a dark journey that had you at the edge of your seat.
While “intense” and “moody” doesn’t offer much other than the vaguest of details as to how this album sounds, I think the key here is to not give much away. Rather the listener should discover The Centre Cannot Hold without too much knowledge so that it can obliterate you. The album single, “Threshold of Faith”, is the entry point. It’s a track that sounds like a person’s final agonizing breaths caught on tape. Perhaps the album’s one chance for you to collect yourself is the ambient “Meg Ryan Eyez”. But after that, you still have four songs left that promise you cannot hold yourself together.